In Mets history, there have been a number of people who have worn the number 2, and to some extent it is an almost cursed number in team history. Perhaps that is a function of Marvelous Marv Throneberry being one of the first people to ever wear the uniform.
Over time, we would see many wear the number and fall far short of expectations. It was the number of Jim Fregosi. It was also the number of Dilson Herrera and Gavin Cecchini. It was also the number of Justin Turner who had better days after leaving the Mets.
Seeing all the number is and what is represents, perhaps Mackey Sasser is the best Mets player to ever to wear the number.
Knowing Gary Carter‘s days being a top catcher were going to be limited, the Mets were proactive, and they addressed the future of the position by obtaining Sasser from the Pittsburgh Pirates on the eve of the 1988 season. That would make Sasser the back-up catcher for the Mets last division title of the century.
That 1988 season was the worst of Carter’s career, and the Mets needed their back-up catcher to contribute more than in year’s past. That season he was an above-average offensive catcher. In fact, he was better than that with his having the sixth best wRC+ among National League catchers with at least 90 PA.
That was the case for his two year tenure as Carter’s back-up. It was Sasser’s play which allowed the Mets to feel comfortable making the very difficult decision in releasing Carter at the end of the year to hand the reigns to Sasser. In 1990, Sasser would reward the Mets faith in him.
In 1990, Sasser would play a career high 100 games that season, and he would catch a career high 87 games. During that season, he would do what had been previously impossible by becoming the first Mets catcher to throw out Vince Coleman attempting to steal a base.
Up until that time, Coleman was a perfect 57/57 in stolen base attempts against his future team. Aside from the throwing highlight, Sasser proved his offense could withstand a heavier defensive workload with his being now the fifth best offensive catcher in baseball. Unfortunately, this season would be it for Sasser behind the plate.
The beginning of the end came on July 8, 1990. In that game against the Atlanta Braves, Sasser was already 2-for-3 at the plate raising his season stats to .336/.381/.455. In the game, Jim Presley ran over Sasser at the plate. Sasser would get the out (he was quite adept at the tag), but he would depart the game with a badly sprained ankle.
From there, Mackey Sasser Disease, the cousin of Steve Blass Disease was born. Sasser would soon begin having issues throwing the ball back to the catcher. This effectively ended his career even with the Mets keeping him around a few more years as a backup and utility player.
That would not be the end of Sasser’s impact upon baseball or the Mets. As it turns out, Sasser wanted answers to why he had the yips. He would seek them out, and as he said to Anthony McCarron then of the New York Daily News, he got that help from Dr. David Grand.
With that help, he was able to successfully be able to throw the ball again, and he would not have issues doing things like throwing batting practice. That would partially help him have a coaching career. In that coaching career, he would again help the New York Mets.
During his coaching career, Sasser would find himself coaching a young infielder named T.J. Rivera at Troy University. When Rivera was undrafted, Sasser called to the Mets and recommended the team sign him. This would eventually lead to Rivera becoming the team’s everyday second baseman in September 2016 and helping that Mets team claim the top Wild Card spot.
More than that, Sasser has made himself available to help those players who have had potentially career altering yips the way he once did. That included calling up Mike Pelfrey when the young right-hander was experiencing issues with balks.
Overall, Sasser not only helped the Mets as a player, but he did what he could do to help the organization after his playing career was over. As we saw, he did hit part to help save Pelfrey’s career, and he helped launch Rivera’s. Even with Turner having his moments and Juan Uribe becoming an instant Mets folk hero, it is difficult to argue any Mets player who wore the number 2 having a bigger impact on the franchise than he.
Editor’s Note: This is part of a series highlighting the best players in Mets history by highlighting the best Mets player to wear a particular uniform number. In this case, this is not saying Sasser was the second best player in Mets history, but rather the best Mets player to wear the number 2.
While we’re all getting together to watch the Super Bowl, we’re all reminded about how former Mets great Juan Uribe feels:
"More fooball! Oh sh*t! F*cking bullsh*t… unf*ckingbelievable… Baseball, that's what I want to watch." – Juan Uribe
— Marc Carig (@MarcCarig) September 13, 2015
Regardless of what he’s doing, his hilarious and epic rant is amusing to recall. It’s also a reminder of just how much fun Uribe was in less than a half season with the Mets.
Not only was he a good player, but he was also fun. He made that run all the more enjoyable, and we’re all better off for his being a Met and being in baseball.
According to Mike Puma of the New York Post, Brandon Nimmo may soon be beginning a rehab assignment which would put him on a schedule to hopefully return to the Mets lineup before September, and at least before the end of the season. If you are skeptical he could return, after all Nimmo had a rehab assignment earlier this year which did not end well, his wife offers hope as well:
So proud of your hard work, grind and positive attitude, babe! You’re my daily inspo. Almost there! 💪🏼😘 https://t.co/GcEdtnpM11
— Chelsea Jane Nimmo (@chelseajnimmo) August 9, 2019
If Nimmo is back, the Mets are a significantly improved team. It’s easy to forget, but Nimmo is one of the best players on this team.
Last year, Nimmo was the second best offensive player in the National League with a 149 wRC+. Despite getting injured during Spring Training, Nimmo was on his way to repeating his 2018 season. Through the first 17 games of the season, he was hitting .241/.388/.463 before being removed from the April 16 game against the Phillies after getting hit on the hand.
Up until that point, he had a a great 16.1 percent walk rate, and he was still a magnet getting hit by a pitch twice. Even with the struggles which ensued from getting hit on the hand and his neck, Nimmo maintained that 16.1 percent walk rate. Put another way, the skills which made him a great hitter in 2018 were still present in 2019 even with the injuries.
Taking that into account, Nimmo is a significant upgrade to the Mets outfield situation. It’s not just over Juan Lagares or Aaron Altherr, both of whom are not performing this year. It is also over Dominic Smith (who is also on the IL) and J.D. Davis. While Smith and Davis are good stories this year, they are not better than Nimmo and certainly not as an outfielder.
Putting that aside, Nimmo gives the Mets actual outfield depth and options. With him as an outfield option, Jeff McNeil can move to second base if needed. This gives more options for late inning double switches and defensive substitutions. With Nimmo returning, this will be the best Mets bench since the 2015 bench with Kelly Johnson, Juan Uribe, Michael Cuddyer, Kirk Nieuwenhuis, and Wilmer Flores/Ruben Tejada.
Nimmo returning makes the starting lineup better. It deepens the bench giving the team more options. It takes a Mets team already in contention, and it makes them even better. When Nimmo returns, we may be talking much differently about this club and their chances of making the postseason and doing damage in the postseason.
During his time in the minors, Jeff McNeil wore a couple of different numbers. Last year, he wore 12 with Las Vegas, and he wore 1 with Binghamton. Overall, he’d wear a variety of numbers including 3, 5, and 10. Naturally, when the Mets called him up to the majors, McNeil was assigned the number 68.
The significance of 68? Well, it was just next in line.
It was something the Mets seemed to start in 2016. That year, the Mets gave T.J. Rivera the number 54, and Ty Kelly was given 55. When Kelly Johnson returned, Kelly was given 56. Over the ensuing years, we’d see the number gradually climb up and up to the point Kelly would wear 66 last year, and eventually McNeil wearing 68.
Now, this is not a practice reserved for all prospects, and it has not been a practice always in place. For example, when Jose Reyes and David Wright were called up, they were given their now iconic 7 and 5 numbers. For that matter, when Eric Campbell was called up to the majors in 2014, he went from 24, a number somewhat unofficially retired by the Mets, to 29.
Now, McNeil is going to wear the number 6, a number which was available all of last season. For that matter, Rivera is going to wear 19, which was a number that Jay Bruce had before he was called up to the majors. It should also be noted the 3 he wore with Las Vegas was worn by Curtis Granderson.
Now, there are some restrictions with uniform numbers. For example, recent uniform history suggests Gary Carter‘s 8 and Keith Hernandez‘s 17 are unofficially retired. They may also want to try to preserve numbers for their top prospects like how Peter Alonso was assigned 20 this Spring Training.
Still, there is a wide chasm between not allowing a player to have a certain number and giving them a number in the 50s or 60s. These players have achieved something by making it all the way to the majors. They should be treated as such by giving them a real uniform number, especially as we saw in the case with Dilson Herrera and Juan Uribe, you are going to make the young player switch when a more established player wants the number.
As a side note, it’s more fan friendly as well because if you are someone immediately attached to a player like McNeil, when you go out and get the jersey, or even shirsey, you have the right number and aren’t out money when the player is finally deemed good enough to pick their own real baseball number.
One of the narratives which has taken hold of late is how the Mets catching situation is what has been holding them back. To a certain extent, there is a point. Travis d’Arnaud cannot stay on the field, and Kevin Plawecki has yet to fully maximize the chances he has been given to establish himself as even a clear-cut starter at the MLB level.
When looking at this offseason, there are plenty of players available who could be upgrades for the Mets. On the free agent front, there’s Yasmani Grandal and Wilson Ramos. On the trade front, there is J.T. Realmuto and Francisco Cervelli. Even if you argue all of these players are not definitively better than what a healthy d’Arnaud can give you, their ability to stay on the field makes them upgrades. More than that, it provides the Mets with depth at the catching position.
As we saw with the Mets playing Jose Lobaton and Devin Mesoraco, depth is vitally important at the catching position. More than that, the Mets need a real depth of talent on the roster. If you build a roster with talented players, an upgrade at catcher isn’t that desperately needed.
For those who don’t remember, the 2015 Mets were able to make it to the World Series with d’Arnaud behind the plate. There were several reasons why. Daniel Murphy was just beginning to become the feared hitter he would become. Curtis Granderson was a leader on and off the field. David Wright was having that one last great stretch in a terrific career. Yoenis Cespedes was phenomenal. There was real depth with Juan Uribe, Kelly Johnson, and Wilmer Flores.
Mostly, it was the pitching, and d’Arnaud played a big part of that with his pitch framing. This path to the World Series isn’t an anomaly either. Just this past season, we saw the Red Sox go to the World Series with Sandy Leon and Christian Vazquez behind the plate. Much like the 2015 Mets, the reason the Red Sox were able to do this was because they had great players like Mookie Betts and Chris Sale in addition to terrific situational/platoon players like Steve Pearce and Brock Holt.
The overriding point is there are many ways for the Mets to go back to the World Series, and they don’t have to upgrade at catcher to do it. Instead, they need to look at the best possible players they can add to the roster.
They need to build on a pitching staff which already includes Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Zack Wheeler, Steven Matz, Edwin Diaz, and Seth Lugo. They need to add to a lineup which already features Brandon Nimmo, Michael Conforto, and Robinson Cano.
If building up the lineup and roster comes at catcher, great. If it doesn’t, that’s good too because we already know d’Arnaud and Plawecki behind the plate can bring you to a World Series. For that matter, Plawecki, d’Arnaud, and Rene Rivera brought the Mets to the Wild Card Game.
In the end, there needs to be much less of a fixation on improving just one roster spot for the sake of another. For example, don’t trade Nimmo for Realmuto. Instead, the Mets just need to focus on getting better players on this team much like how they added Cano even though they already had McNeil.
In the end, if the focus is better players and a deeper roster, you will win games. You see it time and again. The Yankees dynasty had a black hole in left field. The Red Sox had nothing at catcher, second, and third. The 1986 Mets had Rafael Santana. The 2018 Mets can have d’Arnaud and Plawecki behind the plate, a tandem we already know can get you to the World Series.
Perhaps more than any season, there is a sense of sadness which washed upon me when the 2018 season ended. Perhaps, it was because my father is another year older, and I have yet to truly experience the Mets winning the World Series with him. Maybe it is because my son follows the game a little bit more and he is starting to become attached to some players, and those players are up in limbo.
There is the sadness with David Wright leaving. He was the most beloved Mets player in history, and he was arguably the best position player this organization has ever produced. He was a Met for his entire career, and he ended his career the right way – on the field. Unfortunately, that career did not end with him winning a World Series.
Past Wright, there are question marks about some other players. Is this the last time Wilmer Flores ever wore a Mets uniform? Are we just waiting for him to shed tears when he is wearing another team’s uniform? Could we have already seen the last of Travis d’Arnaud? How about Juan Lagares? With him in the last year of his deal, he is certainly more tradeable, and there should be savvy teams lining up to acquire his defense. Is he just destined to go somewhere else where the will be able to finally put it all together? Will a new General Manager come in and opt to start a rebuild that would likely begin with trading Jacob deGrom?
Honestly, will Yoenis Cespedes ever be able to play again? He has only had one of the two heel surgeries he needed. Whenever you see a report on him, no one seems to be able to pinpoint a date he can play next year. At some point, you have to question if he will ever really be able to play. That seems like such a big departure from the larger than life figure he has been since joining the Mets.
Really, when you look around the 2015 Mets team we loved so dearly has been slowly trickling away. Matt Harvey and Jeurys Familia were traded away this year. Addison Reed, Lucas Duda, and Curtis Granderson were traded away last season. Juan Uribe, Kelly Johnson, and Daniel Murphy are distant memories. Bartolo Colon is off making goofy barbecue ads in Texas. Sandy Alderson, the man who orchestrated it all, “took a leave of absence” because he is battling cancer.
What we have left is good, really good. We have seen Brandon Nimmo be the player the Mets hoped he would be when he was drafted. After concerns about his shoulder, Michael Conforto was once again Michael Conforto in the second half. Amed Rosario figured things out in the second half of the season, and Jeff McNeil seemingly came out of nowhere.
We watched deGrom reach a level we never thought possible making him a sure Cy Young award winner. Zack Wheeler went from enigma to ace. Steven Matz actually made 30 starts. Finally, Noah Syndergaard seemed to return to form as the season drew to a close. This is reminiscent of the pitching of 2015, pitching which led the Mets to a World Series.
Looking at it, the Mets had the best ERA in the majors in the second half (2.97), and they had the best record in the division in the second half (38-30). When you combine the finish with the start, you can see there is a World Series contender somewhere in the fabric of that clubhouse. In order for that to happen, the Wilpons are going to have to go out there and get the pieces necessary to put this team over the top. If they were to do so, it would be the first time since they signed Pedro Martinez and Carlos Beltran in 2005, and added Billy Wagner and Carlos Delgado the subsequent offseason.
Making bold moves like that to this core WILL put this team over the top, especially since Mickey Callaway and his staff grew during the season and showed they can be a coaching staff who can win you a World Series.
There’s a hesitation there. After Madoff, no Mets fan can really be assured this team is going to make the bold moves they need to take this roster over the top. Whatever hope you had was dashed when Jeff Wilpon told us all it was really Sandy Alderson who refused to spend and limited the size of the analytics department.
Thinking back, you realize this is partially why Wright retired without a ring. Sure, the Shea Stadium days were different. The Mets did add the aforementioned players, and they did make the Johan Santana trade. But after that? Well, it was Madoff and always finding themselves one or two players short. After all, the Mets traded for Kelly Johnson in consecutive seasons partially because the team believed Eric Campbell, and his major league minimum salary, was part of the solution.
In the end, this is a really likeable team. Watching Nimmo, Conforto, Rosario, deGrom, Syndergaard, Seth Lugo, and the rest of this Mets team, you can’t help but like and root for these guys. They are what makes being a Mets fan great. We don’t want to see deGrom, who looks to take up Wright’s mantle as the next great Mets player, leave Flushing without a ring. That can’t happen.
In the end, the ending of the 2018 season was a sad one. Hopefully, that sadness will quickly subside as the Mets go forth and seize the opportunity that is here. Hopefully, the 2019 season is going to be the year we finally see the Mets win another World Series. I hope so because I don’t know how many more opportunities I’ll have to celebrate it with all of my loved ones.
In a report by Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe, the Washington Nationals are interested in obtaining Addison Reed from the New York Mets at the trade deadline. However, Cafardo also notes the Mets may not be inclined to trade Reed to the Nationals.
If true, this makes little sense.
Reed is a pending free agent. If the Mets do not trade him at the trade dealine, the best they can recoup for him is a second round draft pick, and that is only if the Mets were inclined to extend him a qualifying offer. When you consider the qualifying offer for last year was set at $16.7 million, it seems like the amount will be too high for the Mets taste. As a result, the Mets will likely lose Reed as a free agent with nothing in return if they do not move him at the trade deadline.
If the Mets are indeed trading him because the team is selling, there should be one and only one guiding principle in making a trade – Make the best trade possible. It should not matter if that team is the Yankees or the Nationals.
In fact, the Mets have already benefited from making a trade with the Nationals. On the eve of the 2015 season, the Mets traded outfielder Matt den Dekker for LOOGY Jerry Blevins. For his part, Blevins was lights out for the Mets that season before breaking his arm. With a good relationship already established, the Mets and Blevins have agreed to two different one year deals since. In Blevins time with the Mets, he is 9-2 with two saves, a 2.76 ERA, 1.187 WHIP, and a 11.4 K/9.
Where would the Mets have been if they refused to make an intra-division trade back then?
Speaking of the 2015 season, the Mets moved prospects John Gant and Robert Whalen for Juan Uribe and Kelly Johnson. Uribe and KJ were both important members of the 2015 team. Again in 2016, the Mets acquired KJ from the Braves. Again, KJ was an extremely important part of a Mets team that made the postseason.
In 2015, the Mets made two trades with division rivals, and those two trades helped them win the pennant. Now that they are selling, they should once again be willing to trade with teams in the division. The only guiding principle in making a move is to judge whether the trade is the best return the Mets can get for a particular player.
Will seeing the Nationals win the World Series with Daniel Murphy, Reed, or anyone else the Nationals may acquire from the Mets? Absolutely. However, wouldn’t getting a top prospect like Victor Robles patrolling center field for a World Series winning Mets teams more than ease that pain? Again, absolutely.
Now, can the Mets get Robles for Reed? Probably not. Then again, seeing the prospects got in exchange for Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman last year, it’s possible. That being said, if the Nationals won’t give up a prospect of the caliber of Robles, someone may very well do so. Again, the overriding point here is the Mets need to make the best trade possible . . . even if that trade is with the Nationals.
On October 29, 2010, in the wake of the Madoff scandal, Sandy Alderson took over as the Mets General Manager. Alderson inherited a team with some big stars like Carlos Beltran, Jose Reyes, Johan Santana, and David Wright. With that he also inherited a team who finished the 2010 season with a hefty $126 million payroll, which ranked sixth in the major leagues. Due to some backloaded contracts reaching their expiration, the 2011 Opening Day payroll was actually inflated to $143 million.
Alderson went to work dismantling a team that was disappointing on the field in what was the beginning of a real rebuilding process. Luis Castillo was released before the season started. Oliver Perez was not too far behind him. Getting rid of the underperforming players the fans hated was the easy part. The hard part was what ensued.
The Mets first traded Francisco Rodriguez, who was getting dangerously close to having an expensive $17.5 million option vest. Then he traded Carlos Beltran for Zack Wheeler. Surprisingly, Alderson didn’t trade Jose Reyes, who was the National League leader in batting average. Instead, he would let Reyes become a free agent, and he would recoup a draft pick when Reyes signed a $106 million contract with the Marlins.
And just like that what was once a $143 million payroll became a $95 million payroll in a little more than a year. In subsequent years, the Mets would let Johan Santana‘s contract expire and not reinvest the money. They would release Jason Bay, and again re-invest the money. Then the Mets would shop R.A. Dickey after he won the Cy Young Award. They obtained Noah Syndergaard and Travis d’Arnaud in exchange for him which was a sure sign the Mets were more invested in rebuilding than contending.
It was also a sign that the Mets were cash strapped due to the Madoff scandal. The payroll would reach its nadir in 2o14 when it was actually $85 million, which ranked 21st in the major leagues. A bewildered and frankly angry fan base was left wondering when, if ever, the Wilpons were going to permit the Mets to have a payroll commensurate with their standing as a big market major league franchise.
Now, over the past two seasons, the Mets payroll has gone from $85 million in 2014 to $101 million to start the 2015 season. In that offseason, the Mets actually went out and signed Michael Cuddyer to help them become a more complete team. When Cuddyer faltered and David Wright would suffer from spinal stenosis, the Mets made moves and added payroll. The team first traded for Kelly Johnson and Juan Uribe (even if the Braves paid part of their salary). The Mets then acquired Yoenis Cespedes and what was a left of his $10.5 million contract. In 2015, the Mets spent a little more, but more importantly they spent what they needed to spend to compete.
In 2016, the Mets initially put out signs they were not moving off their roughly $100 million payroll when they signed Alejandro De Aza to platoon with Juan Lagares in center. It was perceived as a sign the Mets were not going to spend; it was a sign they were not willing to go the extra mile to get Cespedes. But then something happened. Cespedes didn’t find that massive deal on the free agent market. Instead, he re-signed with the Mets for $27.5 million in 2016. After 2016, Cespedes had the option to opt out of the remaining two years $47.5 million left on his contract.
With the Mets paying Cespedes a hefty salary to start the season, the Mets Opening Day payroll rose all the way to $135 million. Before Cespedes was re-signed, there was some doubt about whether it was really the insurance on Wright’s contract that allowed them to make those in-season moves, the re-signing of Cespedes calmed down a fan base that worried when or if the Mets would be willing to spend. Better yet, when the Mets had some issues scoring runs, they went out and traded for Jay Bruce.
Surprisingly now, we are back at the point of wondering if the Mets are willing to spend. The $135 million payroll was a positive step, but it is still less than the first payroll Alderson had with the Mets, and it was only ranked 15th in the majors. Cespedes is a free agent, and no one is quite sure if the Mets will re-sign him, look to acquire a big name free agent like Jose Bautista, or if they are going to stick with the Michael Conforto–Curtis Granderson-Bruce outfield. The Mets also have a number of other areas to address this offseason.
The first step was Neil Walker accepting the $17.2 million qualifying offer. With that, according to ESPN‘s Adam Rubin, the Mets current payroll obligations are $124 million. That is just $10 million under what the 2015 Opening Day Payroll was. If the Mets were to re-sign Cespedes, or another big name free agent, the payroll is going to go well past the $135 million mark.
The problem is the Mets need to go even further than that. Not only do they need Cespedes, or a reasonable facsimile, they also need to re-sign Jerry Blevins and Fernando Salas, or again, a reasonable facsimile thereof. The Mets may also want to add another backup catcher given Travis d’Arnaud‘s injury concerns, Rene Rivera‘s lack of offense, and Kevin Plawecki having two disappointing seasons. The Mets may also want to sign a veteran starter considering the health issues of their rotation and Bartolo Colon having signed with the Braves this past week. There’s a lot the Mets need to address here, and it isn’t likely that $10 million is going to cover all of it.
So again, we are back at the point of wondering how far the Mets are willing to go to compete. Will they have a payroll in the upper half of all of baseball? Do they have the funds to spend like a big market club? At this point, no one knows the answers to these questions. While Mets fans may be apprehensive, it is too soon to to pass judgment. That time will come when we see how the Mets handle the Cespedes situation.
Unless you want to wax poetic about Indians First Base Coach Sandy Alomar, Jr.‘s eight game stint in 2007 with the Mets to close out his career, there is no real connection for Mets fans to the players and coaches from either team. There isn’t much of a connection between these two teams because Juan Uribe was released by the Indians on August 5th of this year.
It is a shame too because Uribe was a fun player to watch. He was the rare player that seemingly brought more to the table than just his statistics. He was a clubhouse leader from the moment he stepped foot in Flushing, and he knew how to keep a team loose. It was one thing he has prided himself on with him saying, “The one thing I can do is be a good teammate. Players are your family. I just try to be the same guy every day. You play good, you play bad, be the same guy.” (northjersey.com).
There were great stories with him joking around with David Wright about when he was going to come back to the Mets. There were stories of him breaking out the cigars after a win. He was the guy who was blasting Backstreet Boys in the clubhouse to the amusement of his teammates. He was also the guy who chided teammates for watching football over baseball in the clubhouse. Uribe was a guy that keeps baseball fun for everyone around him.
Still, Uribe was more than a character, he was a baseball player, who had a positive impact on the field. Right from the beginning, Uribe made an impression with the Mets. In his third at-bat with the team, he had a walkoff single off the left-center field wall to get the Mets a split with the Dodgers:
Overall, he did a great job filling in for the injured Wright, and he accepted his part as a bench player down the stretch. Unfortunately for him, he would have a cartilage issue with his chest that would prevent him from playing in the NLDS or the NLCS. He worked hard to be able to play again, and Uribe would actually make his way onto the World Series roster. The reward for his hard work was a pinch hit RBI single in his only World Series plate appearance:
Uribe earned that chance, and he made the most of it. In many ways, it is hard to believe the Mets would have even been in that position without his leadership and play on the field.
Even with him being cut by the Indians, his fingerprints are all over that team as well.
Jose Ramirez, the player who took over third base from Urib said, “I always mess around with him and call him Dad. I respect him a lot. (cleveland.com). Like the proud Dad Uribe was purported to be, he was always generous with the younger players as Ramirez said, “He has so much experience and he wants to transmit that to the younger players.”
On of the longest tenured Indians, Carlos Santana, said, “Uribe is good to have around. He gives the team good energy.”
Francona noted despite Uribe’s histrionics, he’s a “calming influence” in the clubhouse saying, “He’s always smiling. He goes, ‘Hey, play me when you want. Just tell me where to go.’ He’s been there and done it many times. I know that when he talks, they listen. Everybody enjoys him. I mean, how could you not?”
Certainly, the Mets and Mets fans enjoyed Uribe when he was in New York. Even when Uribe is not around, you can see the effect he has had on another team that is playing for the World Series. Even though he will get a ring with an Indians World Series victory, it is a shame he will not be on the field or in the dugout to celebrate with a team he left an indelible impression. It is a shame Uribe never caught on with another team at the end of the 2016 season.
Baseball is better when Uribe is around, and his presence alone makes teams better. Even if it is not as a player, we should all hope that Uribe finds his way into an organization in some capacity in 2017. Hopefully, that will be with the Mets.
This was a fun year in the American League where we saw the managers who were presumed to be among the best in the sport get the most out of their team’s talent and put their team in position to go to the postseason. When you’re picking between the best managers in the sport, and they all did tremendous jobs, you are really picking nits in ranking them. With that said here’s my nit picking ballot:
1st – Buck Showalter
Could you possibly imagine where this Orioles team would be right now if they had just a league average starting staff? It’s incredible to think about how far the Orioles have gone when Chris Tillman and his career 4.13 ERA and 1.310 WHIP is far and away your team’s ace. The question is how did the Orioles do it?
For starters (pun intended), Showalter uses his bullpen masterfully, probably better than anyone else in the sport. When you have no starting pitcher who averages six innings a game, you are going to have to be masterful if you are going to give your team any chance to win a game. Showalter not only was able to put his relievers in the right position to get outs, he was also able to keep most of them healthy over the course of a full season. And yes, it certainly helped that Zach Britton had one of the great seasons a closer has ever had. Still, he’s just one guy that pitches one inning for a bullpen that routinely had to pitch over three innings a game.
Showalter also got the most out of his flawed power bats. Mark Trumbo was signed to be the right fielder, and he hit 46 homers. Pedro Alvarez was the primary DH. With Showalter shielding him from left-handed pitching for most of the year, Alvarez would hit 22 homers.
It also helps that Showalter has two of the best young players in the game in Adam Jones and Manny Machado. Even in what has been Jones’ “worst” season, he still hit 28 homers. Machado had an underappreciated year where he was not only his usual MVP level, Gold Glove caliber third baseman, he also had to handle going to shortstop when J.J. Hardy went down for an extended time due to injury. Couple that with Showalter navigating the issue of Hyun Soo Kim arguably not being ready to start the season, refusing a demotion to the minors, Showalter handled the situation well. He not only eased Kim into the season, but he also got a tremendous season out of him.
Arguably, Showalters is the best manager in the game, and he proved it once again this season. For that, he is my selection for AL Manager of the Year.
2nd – Jeff Bannister
When a team has a +8 run differential, the team is expected to go 82-80. The Texas Rangers would go 95-67 while running away with the AL West. A big part of the reason why is Bannister who, in his second year as a manager, has established himself as one of the best managers in the game.
Bannister had a lot on his plate this season, including but not limited to the run differential. He was helping Ian Desmond convert from a shortstop to an All Star center fielder. He had Rougned Odor, who has shown himself to be an incredibly gifted player, but also as we saw with him punching Jose Bautista, he can be a hot head. There was the demise and sudden retirement of Prince Fielder. There were tough waters to navigate surrounding Yu Darvish, who was returning from Tommy John surgery, and his brother being convicted in Japan for illegal gambling. The Rangers also entered the season without a good catching or first base option. High priced outfielder Shin-Soo Choo would miss most of the year with injuries leaving the team without a good left fielding option either.
The reason this all worked was the Rangers had a good starting rotation led by Cole Hamels and a no-name very underrated bullpen that included the reclamation project of all reclamation projects in Matt Bush, and first time closer, Sam Dyson, who had a breakout season. There were also great seasons by Mostly, this worked because Bannister is a great manager that put his players in the best spots to succeed.
Because this team had more pitching, especially starting pitching, Bannister is barely ranked below Showalter.
3rd – Terry Francona
Heading into the 2016 season, the Indians were largely constructed like the 2015 Mets. They were a team built on young pitching with a highly questionable offense. In order for it all to work, the team would need its manager to do a great job. Francona did.
Again, the one thing everyone knew the Indians had to start the season was starting pitching, and boy did they pitch. Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, and Danny Salazar each had an ERA+ of 122 or better. Fact is, when Trevor Bauer is your fourth best starting pitcher, you know your starting staff is loaded. Ultimately, it was this staff that separated Showalter and Francona in my mind in terms of casting the vote for Manager of the Year. Still, that does not mean Francona had an easy job this season.
He lost his starting catcher Yan Gomes for the season before the All Star Break. He lost his best outfielder Michael Brantley, in the beginning of May. He had an offense that was too reliant on the rejuvenation of Mike Napoli (he hi (he would be released t 34 homers) and Juan Uribe (released on August 5th). The team also desperately needed Carlos Santana‘s power to return (it did). Couple that with a middle infield of Jason Kipnis and Francisco Lindor, Jose Ramirez showing he can offensively handle a corner infield spot, and some smoke and mirror, the Indians generated a sufficient amount of offense to match their starting pitching. Francona goes a long way in much of this happening and that is why he deserves Manager of the Year consideration.
As he frankly had smoother sailing than Showalter and Bannister during the regular season, he gets ranked just below the other two. Frankly, if you came up with a different permutation of these three managers, no one could definitively say you were wrong.